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South Slavic: August 8, 2002

8 August 2002, Volume 4, Number 26


Part III.

This is an exclusive interview with President Vojislav Kostunica of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. RFE/RL's Radovan Bojovic conducted it in Belgrade on 5 July.

RFE/RL: Let us go back to the domestic political situation. According to many estimates, the balance of forces would be almost identical to the present one if a general election were held now. If elections take place, will you make a coalition with the parties of the DOS [Democratic Opposition of Serbia] again, maybe after the election?

Kostunica: One thing is certain: coalitions should be made after the election, if there is a need for them. It is the only sound way to create them, the way it is done everywhere [else] in the world.

The point is that only in that way one can be certain about the real political weight of every single party within the coalition. A fragmented political system like ours cannot last long. It is a miracle that things still work with so many parties around. This must change.

Let me remind you that Italy used to have a very irrational political system. That system led to a high level of political irresponsibility and eventually disappeared. Several years ago, a completely new political system was introduced, with some changes within the parties and some changes within the electoral system.

Many parties that existed before simply do not exist anymore, such as the Christian Democrats and others that ran the country for many years. The new Italian system represents a healthier multiparty system, and that is exactly what we need.

RFE/RL: Many analysts see your political rivalry with [Serbian] Prime Minister [Zoran] Djindjic as a very serious obstacle to democratization. You criticize the government of Serbia for not doing enough to implement reforms. Bearing in mind your political influence, perhaps your party could contribute more through active involvement in the government. Is the problem a difference in concepts or one of personalities?

Kostunica: From the point of view of the DSS [Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia], or my own point of view, these are conceptual differences. We have discussed this many times.

Do we want reforms regardless of their legal basis and in contradiction to the principle of a state based on the rule of law? Do we want reforms that respect both our reality and some demands imposed on us by international financial institutions, while at the same time keeping in mind the social situation in this country? Do we want reforms on paper and in promises, or reforms that can be felt by the common people as an improvement in their lives? That is where the differences lie.

Despite all of our differences, I do not think that talks are out of the question if a compromise is possible, but not if one side is going to impose its will on the other. This has not been the case, however, so cooperation has ceased. This again shows that sound cooperation between parties can be set up only after elections, not before.

RFE/RL: A public discussion was recently opened about the work of the Interior Ministry. Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic blamed the DSS for reacting to successive perceived insults by pulling out of the activities of state organs. Mr. Mihajlovic said that after the Gavrilovic affair, you left the government, and that after the murder of the police general you left the parliament....

Kostunica: Minister Mihajlovic's claims are in need of proof....

I am deeply aware that the situation is complicated, that the burden of the past is difficult, and that it perhaps weighs heaviest in this particular field.

However, I am sure that the fact that one party does not participate in the government, or that it wants to explain its position regarding that nonparticipation, is not the real issue at hand....

Mihajlovic's latest argument is the best example of that. The Democratic Party of Serbia has been deprived of its seats in the parliament of Serbia. This is why the party has decided not to take part in the work of the parliament -- until the issue is resolved through the appropriate court, the Constitutional Court.

The party decided to express its disagreement with the deputies of the parliamentary majority by forming a shadow government. This is how things started. [Police] General Buha was murdered after that. Mihajlovic has simply forgotten the sequence of events....

RFE/RL: You often insist on legalism. You say that laws imposed by the former government must be obeyed. Formally speaking, your approach is right. However, why have those laws not been changed by now, since they are neither legitimate nor democratic?

Kostunica: ....The DSS is not the only one responsible for the fact that necessary reforms have been late in coming, or that we have had administrative rather than legislative reforms.

There is one thing I want to emphasize. We have to obey the laws as they are. They are not good, and many elements need to be changed. But until something is changed, it is better to obey the law instead of violating it.

Everything else leads to anarchy, and that is what I have been warning against. It would lead us to something that looks like a one-party state instead of what we need: a state based on the rule of law.

RFE/RL: Mr. President, do you have time for your scholarly work and for relaxation [in addition to your presidential duties]? You were recently seen at Bora Corba's rock concert.

Kostunica: I don't have much time for myself. I can barely collect materials for my writing, not so much in physical terms as in simply sorting out my plans in my head. I am not sure how I will return to my former profession.

I am nonetheless interested in some broader processes that took place in this region where communism has disappeared. I am not interested in what happened here 10 years ago with regard to personalities. I am a little bit tired of all that.

What I am interested in is what happened after great hopes and expectations were revived in 1989, and how this part of the world has evolved since then.

What I see is that my perceptions and expectations are completely different from the ones I had more than 10 years ago. I am talking about both the postcommunist world and the Western world. They both seem to be so far from what I was actually expecting. This is one of the topics that I am attracted to, and I hope that at some point I will have more time to work on it.